PANAJI: Environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar said the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary was notified in 1999 and the present BJP led Goa government is opposed to making it a tiger reserve as they are interested in mining in the area
“They want to have wildlife safaris, build cottages inside the sanctuary, they are opposing to making it a tiger reserve as they are interested in mining in the area ” Kerkar said.
Tigers have been observed in the Goa region of the Western Ghats over the years. Six tiger sightings were reported in Goa by the forest department in 2022. Although the number of resident tigers in this area is unknown, it is undeniable that this is a crucial corridor for tiger mobility.
“Tiger are habitats of Goa and not a transit animals and this has been proven often with their sightings across this corridor over the years now. It is high time that government accept this fact and move ahead,” renowned environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar said.
Declaring a tiger reserve will stop human encroachment into wildlife sanctuary, forbid the operation of red category industries, and open up access to national and international financing for the maintenance of the tiger habitat.
According to Kerkar, establishing a tiger reserve does not require a minimum base population. According to him, a territory can be designated as a tiger reserve even in the absence of any wildcats provided it can act as a natural habitat for tigers and has a large enough prey population.
The NTCA’s Status of Tigers 2022 study states that the Western Ghats’ tiger population has decreased from 981 in 2018 to 824 distinct tigers. This decrease contrasts with the same period’s increase in the number of tigers at the national level, which went from 2461 to 3080.
The research states that while tiger populations inside protected areas have either increased or stayed stable, tiger occupancy outside of these areas has dramatically reduced. One place where tiger occupancy has declined is the border region between Goa and Karnataka.
The Bombay High Court in Goa was approached in 2020 by the NGO Goa Foundation following death of four tigers including two curbs. The NGO petitioned the court to order the state to implement the NTCA’s directive to establish a tiger reserve in Goa.
At the initial stage of resolving the claims of human settlement under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the procedure of notification of the wildlife sanctuaries (before they are elevated to tiger reserves) is still pending.
According to the Indian Forest Act of 1927, the state government must appoint a forest settlement officer (FSO) to investigate the land rights of persons living inside the planned reserve forest’s defined borders as soon as the notification under Section 4 is issued.